Before you add a new designer to your team

Before you add a new designer to your team

Catherine Clark's Layout avatar

Two roles that are challenging for any small company to fill are those for developers and designers. In fact, they’re very often outsourced instead of hired directly for a few reasons. For example, designers in particular can be unknown territory for a hiring manager who may not know how to best utilize them, or understand how they can improve a team’s overall workflow.

Whether you’re hiring into an existing design team or hiring the first designer on staff, preparing to give a designer the tools they need to succeed within your organization is both satisfying for them and lucrative for your business. Let’s talk about how to prepare to bring in the design unicorn of your dreams.

Define the skill set

I can’t tell you how many job descriptions list a plethora of skill sets that look like they should cover an entire design team. Start-ups especially have a great need for go-getters who are willing to wear many hats, but you can shoot yourself in the foot if you ask too much. Try to narrow your needs down as much as possible while still being realistic about what you need from the role. Are you absolutely certain you’ll need your web designer to also code? Will they also need to create your print collateral? Try not to be too broad, if you have a choice.



That being said, a few particular, non-technical skills can make a technician into a key team member. A skilled artist who has mentoring skills, marketing chops, or entrepreneurial experience will bring new angles to a team. Look for missing skills in your current staff and see how you can augment them without being unrealistic with your expectations.

Be clear about workflow and collaboration

Before adding a fresh designer to your team, make sure you (and whoever is managing the hiring process) have fully explored a few on-boarding details. Are your processes ready to accept a new addition? If you have an existing design team, are you ready to divide work up in a reasonable and fair way? Is your marketing team willing to alter their routines to accommodate the new designer? These are all questions that come up particularly when adding someone highly specialized to an existing team.

Before getting that new designer in, make sure to talk to everyone involved about how they will interact with the designer — when to include them in meetings, how to track progress and deadlines, and when collaboration makes sense. Doing this before you hire means that you can adequately communicate these processes to your new hire. Get as many of those growing pains out of the way early and set expectations for changes in other established roles now.

Give your designer the tools they need to succeed

Another item to make sure you’ve crossed off your To Do list before on-boarding a new designer is to make sure they have the equipment they need to do their job properly. We’re talking literal tools and workflow and support tools here. I’ve had a number of jobs where a computer was so outdated that opening Photoshop took 10 minutes. Saving a file was a whole other story. And from what I’ve heard, sometimes even having Photoshop was a lucky stroke! Do your homework on what hardware, software, and tactical tools your particular flavor of designer might need, and have it ready for them before they start.


Resources to succeed in the job are just as important as the tools they need to complete the job. Understand that a designer isn’t just a technician or a tool for a project. Designers can impact a project’s entire structure by helping to problem-solve early on.

Remember to include them in the steps where they can be impactful: strategy meetings, brainstorming sessions, and so on. Be prepared to give them the freedom to speak up if they see opportunities for new efficiency or a project going awry. An informed designer creates work based on your needs much more efficiently than someone at the end of the line being handed some instructions.

Hiring a designer should be a time of relief for those filling in the role or being stretched too thin, as well as excitement for those who will get to incorporate new visuals into their projects and innovation and life to existing projects. Setting that new designer up for success on your team will go a long way in making sure you’ve utilized all of the skills that they bring to the table.

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